What is Writing Transfer?
“Briefly, writing transfer refers to a writer’s ability to repurpose or transform prior knowledge about writing for a new audience, purpose, and context” (p. 2).
In the Elon University research seminar on Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer, scholars used “transfer” as an umbrella term, which also connects this area of inquiry and practice with broader discussions about the transfer of knowledge and practices.
Other terms that come into play to describe learners’ transfer of writing knowledge include:
- transformation or transformative learning
- application of prior knowledge
- repurposing or remixing prior knowledge
- consequential transitions
Each of these terms connects to different theories of learners and learning.
Questions for Discussion
- Writing transfer is complex – even for experienced writers! Thinking about a time when you had to write for a new audience and purpose, how did you learn about your audience’s expectations? What prior knowledge helped you analyze and respond to the new writing context? If you encountered any missteps, how did you figure out that you were off course with your writing drafts, and how did you adjust your writing strategies?
- If you teach…
- How do you talk with students about your discipline’s expectations for writing?
- How do you learn about – or ask students to reflect on – the prior writing knowledge your students bring to your course?
- How do you help students identify and describe the writing knowledge they have learned in your course that might be relevant to other writing contexts?
- What writing knowledge and rhetorically based concepts (e.g., genre, audience, purpose, rhetorical situation, discourse community, etc.) do faculty teach in your school’s writing programs (e.g., first-year writing, writing in the disciplines courses, writing-intensive courses, etc.)? In what ways do courses across the curriculum build on those terms and concepts when framing writing assignments and in class discussions?
- How – and where in the curriculum and co-curriculum – does your institution measure students’ transfer of writing knowledge?